Longlist

LONGLIST REVIEW: Superbat

Pat the Bat, tired of hanging around all day, dreams of being special – like the superheroes in his favourite comics. With the help of his mum’s trusty sewing machine he fashions a rather fetching costume and – TA DA! – Superbat is born. When they wake from their daytime slumbers, the other bats are all surprised to see their bat-friend dressed as a caped crusader. Eagerly, they ask Pat what his superpowers are: super-hearing! Flight! Echolocation!

The other bats were not impressed by Superbat’s ‘superpowers’.  All of the bats had super hearing.  They could all fly. And, every bat had the ability to find its way in the dark. Pat could not use his muscles to lift a car or shoot laser-beams from his eyes – he was nothing special.

Pat was trudging home, ears flopped and wings drooped.  He did not feel special.  He was just a normal bat in a silly costume. All of a sudden, his super-hearing picked up a faint cry: a cry of help. A bag, bad cat had trapped a family of mice! Like lightning, Superbat flew through the sky. In a blur of fur, and a flap of wings, he scared the mean moggy away. Superbat did have a superpower after all: courage!

Superbat would be an excellent launch-pad to discussing values and how these can be superpowers in themselves. It was the values Superbat already had inside, that helped him to achieve great things and made him truly special and truly super. Children can look at which values are their superpowers and which ‘superpowers’ their role models have. Children can also look at ‘everyday heroes’ and what makes them special, thinking about what makes a hero. Could Pat be a hero without his cape?

At the back of ‘Superbat’ there is a ‘Batty Facts!’ section that reveals even more about the skills, talents and habits of bats. But, there are many other animals with superpowers that could rival the bats’ – from super strength and super speed, to super vision and super camouflage. Children could explore other superheroes of the natural world.

This Bat-tastic book is fun, charming and filled with energy.  Bold and bright, the illustrations are simple and the mix of black against the vibrant palette of primary colours makes them pop off the page. These striking illustrations have a comic-book feel to them. This wonderful story would be perfect for bedtime or to share in class and belongs on every school library or classroom shelf.

Matt Carr

Scholastic    ISBN: 978 1 407172 82 8

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam by Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton

Published by Nosy Crow (ISBN: 978-0857631466)

These two dog burglars are useless criminals so they decide to rob their neighbours by asking them to a party…

Written in rhyme, this story is a pleasure to read aloud as it flows beautifully and the words have been chosen with such care-‘In the dead of night, when the moon yawned down…’ 

Although a simple tale of good triumphing and baddies turning over a new leaf, a real sense of character is developed and you share the dogs’ emotions as they bumble along. The illustrations are just perfect and work so well with the text in conveying their feelings- the illustrator, Steven Lenton, must be a dog lover (as well as a talented artist!) to have captured this so well! Each spread needs to be lingered over and enjoyed- my particular favourite is the cut through of the house!

There are so many things that could be done with this lovely book and a class of children. The rhyming language is infectious and will have them joining in in no time; the excellent vocabulary choices are perfect for discussing and exploring character; the theme is an excellent way of opening discussion, not only about the wrongs of stealing, but of how our actions affect others and how we can all find something we are good at. 

The book has a Stories Aloud code that allows you to hear the story being read and there is a lovely video clip of Tracey Corderoy talking about the inspiration for the book. There’s also a lovely book trailer which might inspire children to do book reviews in a different way!

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam even have a blog. Have a look at what they have been up to recently.

 

Small Change for Stuart by Lissa Evans

Published by Corgi Childrens (ISBN : 978-0552561693)

Moving away from everything you know is never easy, but as if moving to the boring town of Beeton is not enough, Stuart Horten finds his new neighbours to be annoying triplet girls who won’t let him forget that he is small for his age and his name- S.Horten (shorten) – is funny. However, Stuart soon finds an ally in this unlikely trio and he embarks on the adventure of a lifetime to finds his long lost great uncle’s secret workshop.

A great read aloud is one that keeps the audience desperate for more. Small Change for Stuart is a book that does that. The novel starts by setting the scene and introducing Stuart and his somewhat distracted parents and explaining how he has come to live in Beeton.  Children empathise with his plight- everyone knows you don’t move at the beginning of the summer holidays when you don’t know anyone!- and share his frustration with his very intelligent, but not very practical- and tall- father! 

As Stuart gradually discovers clue after clue and solves puzzle after puzzle, children work with him, making connections and suggestions. They enjoy the humour of the story, but also respond well to the moments when Stuart is forced to reflect on his own actions and make difficult decisions. They also enjoy learning new words from Stuart’s father- ‘perambulation’, ‘sylvan’ and ‘conflagration’ became commonly used!

The chapters are of a manageable size, making it possible to complete one a day and keep the story moving at a pleasing pace. The sequel, Big Change for Stuart’, was just as enjoyable and allowed the children to read more about Stuart and his friends.